Focus on metro cold spots of participation to understand patterns of tertiary participation’s geographic influences

Year: 2021

Author: Knight, Elizabeth, Wade, Andrew

Type of paper: Individual Paper

The rates of engagement with post-school education vary significantly across the country and this paper works with the idea of tertiary participation cold spots. This research paper takes a place-based approach to research cold spots and explores how we understand tertiary institutions impact and engage with their local communities, drawing on the concept of anchor institutions. This idea is grounded in the notion that geographical context matters, such as the emotional, social, cultural, historical and institutional characteristics of a particular place that shapes the outcomes for communities, families and individuals. Compared to central metropolitan Melbourne, policy frameworks often describe the Western suburbs of Melbourne through notions of relative disadvantage. This paper seeks to explore concepts of geographic factors including public transport, infrastructure, sight lines which impact access and participation to tertiary institutions taking as a case study the western suburbs of Melbourne. We draw on national ABS data sources to investigate data of current tertiary enrolment rates as well as highest educational attainment of adults [HEAP] to investigate spatial concepts of access and understand different tertiary attainment to map cold spots in provision. Looking at this data highlighted significant variation across the six municipalities that make up the western suburbs. Inner located municipalities report higher than national averages for both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, whereas outer located municipalities are much lower. Exploring the HEAP of outer metropolitan municipalities as they relate to national, major cities and regional areas, reveals that some outer metropolitan municipalities resemble regional areas more closely than metropolitan areas, in terms of HEAP. We supplement the public data analysis with interviews with people working in community education and local government to understand the infrastructure and geographic features which construct barriers and enablers to tertiary access.The paper argues that the Western suburbs of Melbourne and also regional Victoria more broadly, have in common, pathologising discourses in the ways that they are described. The policy response in the regional areas however is to address notions of disadvantage, through funding and incentive mechanisms, for example. The same approaches however, are not evident in addressing disadvantage in the West of Melbourne. We suggest that by understanding how tertiary institutions can be in and of their communities we can support a more equitable understanding of where we live and recover and rebuild from pandemic disruption with enhanced access to tertiary opportunities.